Puppy love

Maureen Haggerty had a goal when she graduated from college: Buy a house as quickly as possible so that she could get a dog.

A corporate job as an actuary helped her save money for a house and dog, but in the end, the work didn't prove satisfying.

She was 30 years old when she quit her job and she was uncertain what would come next. Her goal upon leaving the business world: Get a puppy.

She actually got two, and it was a good thing she did. Those puppies sent Haggerty down an unexpected career path. "I never imagined I could be a dog trainer as a professional," she said. Today, however, Haggerty's small business, The K-9 Coach, is flourishing. She conducts group classes at her south Minneapolis location and private training in clients' homes. She also employs two other trainers.

Because her puppies, Doberman Pinschers, were bred as working dogs, they needed to be busy. If Haggerty didn't give them something to do, they invented something. "My dogs really helped me become a good dog trainer," she said. "They were a challenge. Because of my dogs, I've had to work through every behavioral issue. That's made me really empathetic towards people who struggle with their dogs."

Dog owners seeking her help most often complain about barking, pulling on a leash and jumping on people, Haggerty said. Many owners quickly lose patience with their dog's poor "house manners." Yet for Haggerty, training house calls are the best part of her day. "When I'm working with an owner and their dog the feedback is immediate," she said. "I see the smiles, I see the tail wag, I see the results. It's so unlike my work in the corporate world. There I was just helping a faceless corporation owned by another faceless corporation. Even though I made more money than I do now, the personal interactions are so much more satisfying."

While her one-on-one interactions with people and dogs are a highlight, Haggerty also draws energy from the business aspect of her job and admits she keeps long hours as a small business owner. "I work at least twice as much now as I did before," she said. "I put in 40 hours a week training and 40 hours running the business. But that's the most exciting part, knowing its mine, putting my effort into it. It's amazing how when you find something you're passionate about, it doesn't feel like work."